“You’re fine on the ice, man,” Ransom says. “That’s not even what I’m talking about.”
“Then what are you talking about? Try English. Because you’re making zero sense.”
He arches a brow, pointing his thumb back in the direction of the rink. “That guy who wanted you to sign his jersey? Before the kid?”
“He was hitting on you. So was the waiter at the burger joint last night. You didn’t even notice.”
What? This is news to me. “The waiter too? And the guy today?”
He rolls his eyes. “Yes, like this is a surprise. You get hit on almost as much as I do.”
“More,” I mutter.
“Whatever. But now you’re off in la-la land, and hanging out with you is killing my mojo with the ladies, since you aren’t pairing up anymore.”
“Aww. I’m so sorry you can’t score a date. Have you considered looking in the mirror and maybe getting a face-lift?”
He nods appreciatively, clucking his tongue. “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the first joke you’ve cracked in a week. What’s the deal? You’re kind of . . . joyless. And that’s on top of how you don’t notice the dudes anymore.”
“Well, hello. The pact?” I say, pointing to the obvious explanation, even though it’s not the reason.
“Yes. Same pact, bro, but I still notice the babes. I might not do anything about it, but I sure as shit notice them.” He shoots me a what’s up stare. “What’s your deal? Did you go to England and fucking fall in love?”
I freeze. Is it that obvious?
Do I say something to my bud? Ransom and I get grub, play ping pong with the guys, and shoot the shit on the team plane, occasionally mentioning a hookup, but we don’t do deep-dive relationship talks. Never have. He hasn’t been in one for as long as I’ve known him. A woman broke his heart once upon a time, and he’s been devoutly single since then.
But now, we’re charting new friendship territory, and I’m not entirely sure how to tread. I’ve only ever talked about Dean to Emma, but she’s a continent away.
I’m not entirely sure what to say to Ransom, so I try to deflect. “Why are you asking?”
“Because you might be a focused Zen master in the rink, but off the ice, you’re kind of lost.” He parks his elbows on the table. “You okay, man?”
I heave a sigh. He’s right. I know he’s right. I might be in the zone physically, but mentally I am elsewhere. I have been since I left London six days ago. Even if Ransom and I haven’t been let’s make a quilt and talk buds, maybe that’s only because we’ve never needed to.
Pretty sure I need to now. “Yeah, I did fall in love,” I say heavily.
His jaw hangs open. He lets out the most shocked whoa in the universe.
“No fucking way!”
I hold up a hand like I’m taking an oath. “It’s all true.”
He offers a fist for knocking. “Knock me, bro.”
“Not sure this is a knock-me thing,” I remark, but I knock anyway, since you don’t leave a teammate hanging.
“Fuck yes, it is. The player falls hard.” He leans back in his chair, beckoning me to serve it up. “So, what’s the story? You keeping it wrapped up till our pact ends and then . . .?”
“And then what?” I ask. “He lives in London. I live here. There’s not really much to do.”
The waitress swings by and asks if we need anything, smiling at Ransom. He says no, but when she leaves, he nods in her direction. “And if you’re not going to see this guy again, does that mean you’re gonna get back on the market after the season starts?”
I cringe, shaking my head. “God no.”
“Dude, you have it bad,” he says, and the look he gives me tells me I’m a sorry-ass lovesick bastard right now.
I know how to follow orders. I take them seriously. I abide by them. So I’m a very good boy at resisting talking to Dean.
At avoiding his photos? Not so much.
That night when I’m alone, I crank up the tunes in my place, take a long, hot shower—during which I entertain all the thoughts of him, because that’s what I do in showers—then dry off and flop down on my bed.
My big, empty bed.
I turn my gaze to the unoccupied side of this vast California king, wishing I could see him sliding up against me.
Or the more likely scenario is me tackle-hugging him and making him snuggle with me after a good, long fuck.
A shudder wracks my body at the thought.
I grab my phone and click on a folder.
If Google could report me for looking at pics, I’d have been handcuffed six million times already.
And I have no regrets.
I click on my favorite—the one at Tower Bridge—first. I smile as the memory shimmies in front of me. That was the day I knew we could sort shit out, because we did that during our first fight.